Chief executive of News Corp Robert Thomson (Image: AAP/David Crosling)

It’s always galling to watch News Corp paper fire up over the pay of politicians and corporate executives. As was noted in Crikey last month, there are separate rules for News and everyone else can get stuffed.

News Corp papers and their commentators always forget the obscene amounts of money paid to the Murdoch men — Rupert, Lachlan and James — and the company’s CEO, Robert Thomson. In 2018-19, Thomson was once again one of the highest paid CEOs of an Australian-listed company, and certainly the highest paid CEO of any media company.

It’s something of an anomaly that this remuneration is forgotten in many of the surveys of Australian corporate pay and excess. There’s a wide perception that News Corp is strictly an American company. It is, but its securities are also quoted on the ASX, and it gets a substantial amount of revenue from its Australian newspapers and other media assets. In fact, more than 50% of its revenue comes from Australia, as well as a substantial amount of pre-tax earnings.

So how did the executive pay go in 2018-19? Rupert Murdoch made millions as usual, being paid US$5.03 million (A$7.47 million) for just turning up and playing the role of “executive chair”. The old bloke got his usual US$1 million base salary and the rest was made up from shares and other incentive payments. This was down from the US$5.74 million in 2017-18 and US$5.68 million in 2016-17.

Lachlan Murdoch was the top paid non-executive director, with US$399,468 in 2018-19 (A$592,000). For a Murdoch that’s just walking-around money; for any one else it’s a lot of loot. Seeing the average pay of a News Corp employee was US$69,666, Lachie’s remuneration was more than five times that average.

But the star was Thomson. In the year to June, he was paid a massive US$14.74 million (A$21.85 million). That was up more than 17% from the US$12.977 million — 228 times the average News Corp employee wage. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was paid almost A$24 million in 2018-19 and got a lot criticism from the media, including from News Corp outlets.

Now we can wait for Thomson to be subjected to the same level of attention.

Peter Fray

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